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Pneumatic Candy Canon Delivers COVID-Safe Halloween

Halloween is big deal in our household. Now is the time when I start thinking about how we might revise or update the presentation. With the onset of COVID, in 2020, we decided to skip the year. Prior to the availability of vaccines there was no way to ensure a safe experience with what has historically been a large crowd.

No Trick-or-Treating in 2020

No Trick-or-Treating in 2020

In 2021, given the availability of vaccines, we opted to resume engagement with trick-or-treaters. However, we did so taking precautions to keep our boo-crew at a safe distance from the kiddos. The core of this strategy was not allowing trick-or-treaters into the yard.

Instead, we enhanced the decor along our fence line, and delivered candy to the front gate using a pneumatic candy canon. While not yet perfect, this worked quite well. This post details some of the design considerations, experiments, and lessons learned in creating the candy canon.

Others in the neighborhood were experimenting with using PVC pipe to create a candy chute from a second story window to their fence line. This was nice and simple, since gravity did all the work for you. However, ours is a single story home. Further, we didn’t relish the idea of Boo Crew on the sloped roof.

I thought it possible to use air pressure to push the candy along the tube, not unlike the system we find at drive-up banks or pharmacies. I could use our existing Shop-Vac in reverse to generate the air flow, connecting it to a length of PVC pipe.

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Roasting Coffee: Not Burning Down the House

Coffee is a significant part of my routine. It’s my a.m. beverage of choice. In the afternoon I transition to water. And most typically, further transition to wine in the evening. Both coffee and wine are subject areas with considerable depth.

My interest in wine is by now well known. I pursued that with some formal classes and certification about the same time I started working with ZipDX. There’s only so far to go down that path. It gets expensive and requires the sort of commitment that comes from working in that industry. These days I remain a well informed consumer, but not as driven to explore the depths of the world of wine.

Instead, I’ve started to explore coffee. We’re fortunate that much of the coffee entering the US does so via the Port of Houston, making this a great place to be a coffee drinker. The House of Coffee Beans is our regular source. Stella gets me a selection of their coffees every year for Christmas.

 

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Tech we have deployed for Halloween

It started back in 2002. My wife brought home a large inflatable spider, something new for the exterior decor at Halloween. I struggled to find a way of using it that seemed appropriate.

In the end, I decided to give it context by building suitably large, lit spider web in the font yard. It spanned the gap between the house and a very tall Loblolly pine in the corner of the yard.

The children came in droves, and were filled with awe. They left with candy, and it was good.

Every year we try something new. We occasionally drop something that didn’t work quite as well as we hoped. This year I’d like to highlight a few things we’ve used that work very well.

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Halloween on the 3300 Block of Beauchamp

Since 2002, we’ve put a vast effort into Halloween. It started one day when Stella came home with an 8-foot, purple, inflatable spider. I could not just plop this guy down in the yard. That lacked context. So, I dyed some sisal rope and built him a home, in the form of a 20 foot tall, illuminated spider web. A nice backdrop against which to give out candy to the kiddos.

Every year we’d tweak the presentation a bit. We added fog machines and lights. More fog machines. More lights. Better fog machines. Still more lights.

We added music! Loud, but not too loud. Enough skeletons to have our own baseball team. Bigger, badder fog machines with built-in dry ice chambers!

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The Sound of Silence

For the past couple of days my office has been blissfully, almost eerily silent. Silent like I’ve not heard in several years. It’s enough to make me want some kind of background sounds, which is something that I’ve never wanted previously.

This newfound silence has been brought about by a combination of things. It cool enough outside that the door is closed. The mighty Fujitsu Halycon air conditioner is taking a much needed break. Today, it’s not so cool that I need a heater.

Most significantly, I’ve turned off the 24-port Netgear switch that serves as our network core. The other day I swapped an older 10/100 switch into service so I could clean out the old Netgear unit. Racked and untouched for along while, it was terribly dusty inside & out.

Netgear GS524T

This old Netgear GS524T has two built-in 40mm fans. They’ve been making noise forever. It’s been getting steadily worse. The 10/00 switch that I have as backup is fanless, so the familiar whine of the wee fans has been silenced for now.

In fact, according to my Netatmo Weather Station the ambient noise level in my home office is around 36 dba. That’s pretty quiet.

2019-12-10 15.11.05

Just now, staring at the approaching holidays, I don’t really want to spend on a new & much better switch, so I think I will replace the fans in the old one. It’s a $20-30 project. I’m told that folks do this routinely in the case of Ubiquiti switches. They replace the noisy stock fans with quieter fans from Noctua.

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